Friday, October 29, 2010

Sound Coming Down

Posted by Dave Kaufman

I’ve never heard the silence of a crowd like at last week’s Gord Downie show in Sherbrooke.
Maybe silence is the wrong word. Quiet reverence, maybe. Or awe. Does awe make a sound?
It was at its most poignant during Steeplechase, a song off of his under-appreciated second solo album, Battle of the Nudes.
During a two-minute overture by his incredibly talented band, The Country of Miracles, Downie worked furiously in front of an old projector like the ones my teachers used in high school, and created a tableau that became the background art for the stage.
Almost instantaneously he had created a scene reminiscent of 9/11. Downie unveiled a cutout of a jet barreling towards a massive building. He then placed a clear plate over the cutout, and doused it with red acrylic.
Art and music fused into one. As the guitars beeped and he started to sing, the crowd grasped the poignancy of the moment.
“There’s a cruel, crumpling sound from over yonder by the steeplechase / it's the sound of coming down like horses slamming on the brakes"
It was a sound as unique as the show. I doubt I'll ever hear it again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So Divine

Bienvenue a Nellcote, home of the ventilator blues.

The 19th century mansion in the heart of the Cote D’Azur, Gestapo headquarters in the 40’s, the perfect tax haven for those know to walk before they’re made to run.

In the summer of 1971, Keith Richards rents Nellcote, and the boys set up shop to record what would become my desert island album, Exile on Main St.

To have been a fly on the wall in that basement…

This week, I picked up my fourth copy of Exile. Re-mastered this time. Much in the same vein as the Beatles set that came out last fall, the re-mastering offers the listener a much cleaner version of the album. For someone who has listened to Exile hundreds of times, the nuances between the old and new are very obvious, and sometimes revelatory.

For example, I never was overly crazy about what was arguably the band’s biggest commercial success on Exile, Tumbling Dice. I found it too muddled, and much preferred it in concert to the album. Truth be told, I’d often wade through the waste stormy winter right in to the arms of Sweet Virginia.

Finally, after 40 years, they shine a light. The orchestral arrangement of the song is beautiful. Mick no longer sounds like he’s singing with a bag over his head. Bill Wyman’s bass drives the song, and Mick Taylor’s solo never sounded so precise, or so sweet. It’s a perfectly crafted song, and who knew she had a partner in crime? More on her later…

If you know Exile intimately, then you’ll really get to appreciate with a clarity you’ve never heard- Bobby Keys’ sax solos on Casino Boogie, Charlie Watts’ drums on Casino Boogie, Nicky Hopkins’ piano on Casino Boogie, wait a second; Casino Boogie is a hell of a song.

All 18 songs are. And it’s great that they’re getting the 21st century treatment. Modern technology hasn’t figured out flying cars or teleportation, but they sure can re-master an LP, and make every song your favourite tune.

As cool as the album is, the bonus disc is a Stones fan’s dream. Ten songs, culled from the Exile demos, some so incomplete that the boys (including Mick Taylor, who left the band and was replaced by Ronnie Wood in ‘74) were brought in to fill in the blanks with the help of super producer Don Was.

Of the ten, two are different versions of songs from Exile- a Keith led ‘Soul Survivor’ with completely different lyrics and more horns, and a reworked ‘Loving Cup’ that lacks the flow of the original, but is great to hear nonetheless. ‘Pass the Wine’ is a hybrid of old music and new lyrics that thankfully continue the tradition of cocksure Stones sense and sensibility: “glad to be alive and kickin / glad to have a pot to piss in / so pass the wine / and let’s make some love”

'Plundered My Soul' and 'I’m Not Signifying' would fit right in on the original Exile, or Goat’s Head Soup, or Even Voodoo Lounge. They’re just classic, unabashed blues/rock Stones tracks. ‘Dancing in the Light’ deals with insecurity and heartbreak, but with the playful wink that Mick is famous for: “I’ve got a sinking feeling, who’s potatoes are you peeling?”

There are two songs that make the ‘New’ Exile shine. The first, ‘So Divine (Aladdin Song)’ is a smoky hazy Zeppelin influenced jam with a lead guitar that gives me goose bumps. Unlike most Jagger songs dealing with heartbreak (think Angie, Miss You, Fool to Cry, even Stupid Girl), So Divine finds Jagger angry and bitter: “You think your love is so divine / you pour it out like it was heaven scented wine/ you think your love is all I crave /well I’ve got better things to do than be your slave.”

Finally, ‘Good Time Women’ is the partner in crime to Tumbling Dice, or at least she’s her boozy, sexed up older sister. With a sped up ‘Dice’ as it’s theme, Mick’s relaxed drawl makes for a great contrast with the fast girls of whom he sings. This is a song that’s begging to be played back to back with Honky Tonk Woman on their next tour.

One week since the re release of Exile on Main St., and the Stones have once again reached #1 on the charts in the UK. A new tour is imminent, and the only question remains where it always has, on lead guitar. My buck says that after the success of new Exile Ronnie gets the boot, Mick Taylor gets his due, and he rejoins the band. They could even go back to Nellcote to record...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Somewhere in the swamps of Jersey

EDITORS NOTE - This entry was originally published in October of 2009. During some site migration work, this entry was inadvertenly removed. It has now been returned for your reading pleasure.

“Seeing Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey is like seeing a panda in China.”-Jon Stewart

For years I have been trying to explain to friends the significance of seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. “It’s like I walked into church and was instantly converted,” I’d often say of my first show, which was back in 2003. I have never seen the Bell Centre as alive before or since.

Seeing him in the USA was something I had always wanted to experience. After hearing that Bruce would be performing the final concerts at Giants Stadium this fall, I relished the opportunity to see him in his home state, and in the venue that gave him the reputation as one of the few artists worth seeing in concert in a football stadium.

I woke up early, left Montreal before dawn, and made it to my friends Sam and Sarah’s place in Chelsea by noon. We were left with ample time for a pre show meal at the Chelsea Market and a quick look at the High Line, an amazing addition to what has become my favorite part of the city (

A quick change into my Rosalita shirt (“Now I know your mama she don’t like me ‘cause I play in a rock ‘n roll band”), and Sarah and I were off to Penn Station to catch a train that would take us through the swamps of Jersey to the Meadowlands.

We got there early, walked past the throng of tailgaters, and started talking with the amazing cross section of fans who were waiting with us at the gate. There was the family from Texas, dressed head to toe in Aggies gear out of fear of wearing their Cowboy colours in enemy territory, the dad and his son dressed head Bruce bandannas and tight jeans, even a lady in her 70’s, with a walker and a Greasy Lake t-shirt. Everyone was talking about who would show up to say goodbye to the stadium….Mick? Sir Elton? Southside Johnny? Did Bruce really pay a $3 million fine so that he could play till 2am?

Well, no. He didn’t. He "only" played for 3 and a quarter hours. And nobody else showed up except those who were expected. There was no disappointment to be had. At this party, the invited guests were all that we needed.

I’ve seen the Hip in Kingston, and Arcade Fire at the Bell, but I have never seen a crowd embrace their hometown son like they did that night. Bruce crowd surfed during an entire song, helped facilitate a marriage proposal in the pit, sang a duet with a little girl, and brought a bald guy on stage to dance with him (there’s hope for you, Melnick!). It didn’t matter where you were in that stadium, from the furthest distance you were still in the palm of his hand…

Twenty-five years ago, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played Giants Stadium for the first time, on the Born in the USA tour. Twenty-Four sold out Giants Stadium concerts later; they would bring it full circle, and play the Born in the USA album from front to back. Hearing the one two punch of the plaintive and beautiful Bobby Jean and a stripped down and emotional I’m Goin Down brought the crowd to euphoric heights, at least it did in section 129…

One of the highlights of a Springsteen show is request time (if you’re close to the front at a Bruce show, bring a sign with a song you want to hear- if you’re lucky, he’ll play it!). Surprisingly, they played ‘I believe in Miracles’- “Where you from? You sexy thing!”. Fittingly, they also played the slowed down version of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, aka The Last Time by The Rolling Stones.

As the night began to wind down, and he started to play the opening lick to Kitty’s Back, I thought back to the first time I had heard the song, many years ago on Conan O’Brien. Watching Springsteen carry the song into the credits with Conan and guest Al Gore rocking along with, I wished that one day I would hear it in person.

Not exactly world peace, but I did get my wish that night. After he closed with Jersey Girl (the last dance, he called it), the lights came back on, and as if on cue from above, it began to pour.

Nobody cared. There’s praying at the church of rock ‘n roll, and then there’s attending Vatican mass with the Pope. Besides, like Catlong, ooh ooh what can I do?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Written by: Dave Jackson

What an Easter Monday night! I went to Club Il Motore on Jean Talon to see Deer Tick and arrived at 9:30 for an 8:00 show. There were two opening acts that I’d hoped to avoid, since I’d never heard of them. To my chagrin, the first band had not even taken the stage. What a blessing in disguise. I spent the next three and a half hours in Rock n’ Roll bliss.

The first band to take the stage was The Sunfields, a recently formed local act from Montreal. Fronted by charismatic Jason Kent (formerly of The Dears), this band had everyone in the club paying rapt attention. The fact that these guys remain unsigned, can only be temporary. They played an inspired set that reminded me of Neil Young, C.C.R., and The Band. They have warm, fuzzy and distorted guitar riffs reminiscent of Cowgirl In the Sand. The keyboards would make Garth Hudson and the late Richard Manuel smile, and they can quickly change gears to come at you with southern sounds and lyrics typical of John Fogerty. Their new album, Palace In The Sun is ready and due for release this fall. Visit them at :

Next up, came Those Darlins. Three girls, Nikki, Jessi and Kelley Darlin on guitars with Sheriff Lin on drums. Hailing from Murfreesboro, TN, they bear no resemblance to your mother’s Nashville. They were a full frontal assault of every rock genre you could imagine with a hint of Patsy Cline thrown in. Add a touch of The Ramones and you start to get the idea. From their opening number that resembled a punked-up Dick Dale surf tune, they launched into a dozen or so, high energy, sometimes raunchy, straight ahead, rock, punk, country fusion numbers. All three accomplished guitar players took turns playing bass, and Nikki often played an amped ukulele. Their energy was infectious as they jumped off the stage and played guitar while they sang and danced with the throng of fans. They loved bantering with the audience and seemed genuinely at ease with cynical sarcasm. Many of the songs were off their self-titled debut album which has a touch more country influence than you get in live concert. To see them live, makes you wish that you could play guitar and drive around North America being a rock star! These girls are the real deal and leave nothing on the table at the end of the night. Another highlight was their cover of, Shakin’ All Over (written and recorded by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and then made popular in North America by Chad Allen and The Expressions) They played it pretty much as written but with as much or more energy and attitude than most boy bands could hope to do. As an opening act, they left the stage with the crowd wanting more.

Finally, Deer Tick took the stage. Lead singer and songwriter John McCauley did not disappoint. Despite copious amounts of alcohol (especially vodka) he was amazingly lucid and clear when he began to sing. He hit every note, both verbally and with his guitar. It became quite clear that this band enjoyed a party. I haven’t followed this band long enough to know their entire backstory, but suffice to say, I believe that their classification as ‘Christian Rap’ is a sly inside joke. It reminds me of an episode of South Park where the boys form a band and then label themselves ‘Christian Rock’ to attract more followers. I applaud their irony! Their set was a mix of songs spanning “War Elephant” “Born on Flag Day” and their upcoming new release, “The Black Dirt Sessions.” The band was tight and the sound was clear throughout the show. As the drinks flowed, so did the songs. The set began with John announcing,“the last time I played this song, I ran off the stage and puked.” Next came, “Easy” and the intensity continued to increase for the next hour. As the set came to a crescendo with a rousing rendition of ZZ Top’s, “Cheap Sunglasses” The entire room was in a frenzy and hot with the anticipation of a smokin’ encore when the truly bizarre occurred. Everyone was watching and yet no one seems to be sure what happened. The keyboardist was wailing on the sax, one of the boys was shredding his axe while straddling an amp and John was playing guitar with his back to the audience. Unexpectedly, John launched himself awkwardly and face first into Dennis Ryan’s drum kit. He dove right onto the drums with his guitar and all. As the drums scattered and rolled away, Dennis attempted to continue playing. All eyes were on the fallen lead singer, wondering if he was ever going to get up. Dennis, the drummer abruptly stopped playing, gave a one fingered salute, and stormed off stage. As he got closer we could see that he was bleeding profusely from above his left eye. He looked like someone out of a Rob Zombie movie. He literally left a trail of blood from the stage to the back door. We all tried to figure out what had just happened. Was it a cymbal or guitar that did the damage? As the crowd stood in stunned silence, the erstwhile flying guitar-man ran back to apologize. The story coming from Dennis is that he had been hit with a thrown beer bottle. Wow! What an ending to a rock extravaganza! You couldn’t have written a finer ending (with apologies to Dennis.) No one knows what actually happened. Theories abound about a grassy knoll and one lone bottle. Apparently, three homeless looking concertgoers were seen leaving the show wearing new shoes.

Where is Mr. Warren and his Commission when you really need him?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


1:00 AM

I've always wanted to see Henry Rollins speak. That's no misnomer. I've heard about his legendary spoken word performances in their Springsteenesque length. But, somehow I've always been too busy to catch him. Finally caught up to Rollins last night at Le National, thankfully (as it turned out) missing the Canadiens-Senators match up at the Bell Centre.

I brought my 19 year old daughter Jade to the old theatre and made sure she didn't know anything about Rollins other than the punk bands he used to front, Black Flag and the Rollins Band. Try to resist the urge to look him up on YouTube I almost pleaded with her and she co-operated, having no idea what to expect when we settled into our seats in the balcony at about 8 oclock.

Rollins jumped out a few minutes later, grabbed the microphone and didn't move for nearly three hours. He didn't stop talking either, not for a second. Not even to sip some water. In fact there was no bottle of water for him to sip from. I've never seen anything like it, except perhaps, Jimmy Stewart fillibusting on the floor of the U.S. Senate in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington".

Rollins riffed on Anne Coulter-invited by the "Young Conservative douche bags" to speak at University of Ottawa (where he will be at the same time), health care, Madame Tussaud, Michelle Obama, George W Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, David Duke, Barack Hussein Obama, John McCain, U.S. election night, RuPaul, homosexual fantasies, gay rights, racism, sexism, pluralism, censorship, travelling the world while spreading the gospel of punk and rock, The Damned, Bad Brains, The Stooges, masturbation and free speech.

It was a tour de force. And I thought hosting a four hour talk show was challenging. It's clear Rollin's brain works at a whole other level. He's still got the amazing energy he used to have when fronting his bands only now it's his brain and mouth that work in tandem and as a primary instrument. And as long as he's "rested and straight" he needs no other accompaniment.

I won't recount highlites other than to say his takes on and tales of Sarah Palin and her offspring, playing a white supremacist on the tv series Sons Of Anarchy and delivering a commencement address at Sonoma State University in California last May were howlers.

It was just before 11 Pm when I turned to my daughter for some reaction that didn't include laughter. "Thanks for taking me. He spoke twice as long as some of my classes but it seemed to move twice as fast".

A great teacher, that Henry Rollins.

(Mitch Melnick)